April is finally here, and that means it’s time to get serious about oral cancer.
As the inaugural post of our coverage of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, we challenge you to ask this question of yourself.
How much do you really know about oral cancer? Should you be worried in particular? What makes someone at risk for this disease? I aim to answer all of these questions and more of the course of this month.
Today, we’ll start with the cold, hard facts.
A National Epidemic
Each year in this country, over 48,000 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed. Put another way, that’s more than twice the capacity of the Moda Center. Of those new cases, over 9,000 of them will result in the untimely death of the patient.
You might think that you’re in the clear because you’re not a smoker. And most of the time, you’d be right in thinking that.
However, in this case, it’s an assumption which doesn’t bear fruit. Even though nearly 85% of Oregon households maintain a “no smoking” policy, you’re not entirely out of the woods as far as absolute risk is concerned. Research has shown that the rate of oral cancer in nonsmokers is 25%, so even without those bad habits, there’s still a 1-in-4 chance you could be diagnosed with this deadly disease.
But, aside from the the fact that we’re talking about cancer itself, have you ever considered why oral cancer is both easily treatable, yet often fatal? Seems like a bit of a conundrum, doesn’t it?
Strange, but true. The primary reason why oral cancer is so dangerous has to do with its detection – or, to be more accurate, a lack thereof. The vast majority of oral cancer cases are detected long after they have metastasized (or spread) to other parts of the body. In most of those cases, the first place an oral cancer will spread is to the lymph nodes.
Once oral cancer has spread, your survival rate drops drastically. Even normally successful treatment options such as chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or even oral surgery become virtually ineffective in the face of late-stage oral cancers. They’re simply too deep, and too intertwined, with your body’s tissues to effectively eradicate by that point.
So what does work against oral cancer? Does it even have a Kryptonite?
Early Detection: Your Best Bet
To be fair, calling an appropriately timed oral cancer screening a “bet” is a bit of an understatement. In some cases, the survival rate for oral cancer can be as high as 95% if the cancer is detected early enough.
Prevention and early detection are really what it comes down to in order to keep oral cancer at bay, and over the course of this month, we’ll going over a number of different aspects about this largely avoidable disease.
I am passionate about the health and well being of my patients, and that extends to behaviors which can endanger not just the health of their smiles, but also their overall health, as well. In the context of oral cancer, I can say without question that if you are currently a heavy smoker or a heavy drinker, then your risk for developing an oral cancer on your mouth, tongue, or inner cheek is much, much greater than the average.
I’ll save the details for a future blog post, but suffice it to say it is very important to start thinking about it now, because with oral cancer, time is your greatest ally.
Finding The Courage
The prospect of cancer is a daunting one, to say the absolute least. It can be terrifying, paralyzing, and outright depressing. But just as there is no cure which is 100% effective, no cancer diagnosis is 100% fatal, either, when you manage to get a timely oral cancer screening from your Oregon City dentist.
The screening itself just takes a few minutes, and involves a professional visual examination where your mouth will be examined for any oral irregularities which might indicate symptomatic oral cancer.
I routinely do this for all of my patients when they come in for their semi-annual checkups. These checkups are a cornerstone of preventative dentistry, providing you with a regular vigilance that makes sure an oral cancer diagnosis comes sooner rather than later in event it ever happens.
To make your appointment, please call us at 503-917-0523, or fill out this web form to request your appointment online.
I look forward to setting your mind at ease!
GET OUR FREE E-BOOK
Find out how implants can improve your life! Fill out the form for instant access.